Gone are the days of setting up meetings with recruiters in coffee shops. Online tools, such as LinkedIn and Handshake, are now students' biggest lifeline for making professional connections and landing a career.
Professional networking, despite its awkwardness, fills 85% of all jobs, a 2019 LinkedIn survey found. The pandemic hasn’t changed that, but it has changed the way students are making those critical professional connections.
Vi Nguyen, a sophomore majoring in business management and psychology, said making connections has been even more difficult without the in-person connection.
“Shifting to virtual networking has required a bit more work and attention on my behalf,” Nguyen said. “I do find myself getting distracted (by social media and text messages), so it’s been difficult for me to truly (network) online,” she said.
But Nguyen believes the shift to virtual networking has been eye-opening in some ways.
“Whenever I email or message someone, I try to make sure that I am direct and to the point,” she said. “Everyone has their own priorities. We want to be considerate of their time, which is what I've realized during (the pandemic).”
David Hayward, a junior studying accountancy and business law, also perceived virtual networking as a mixed bag.
“Some events have been canceled, and others have been converted to virtual formats,” Hayward said. “That makes it harder to have one-on-one, casual conversations with professionals, which have proven to be a great way of getting your foot in the door."
Hayward also sees some silver linings in how networking has been changed by the ongoing pandemic.
“Reaching out to someone on LinkedIn has never been easier, as fewer people are getting the chance to make a prior in-person connection,” he said.
He said setting up phone calls and video meetings offer a wider availability and are becoming more professionally accepted.
“I found that virtual interviews were just as effective as in-person ones,” Hayward said. “(Virtual interviews) also provided the opportunity to meet more frequently.”
Hayward said he believes when a return to pre-pandemic normalcy arrives, he’ll continue to use convenient online networking tools at a rate similar to how often he’s using them now.
Samay Thirunagari, a junior studying finance and business data analytics, said he doesn’t mind the shift to online relationship building.
Scheduling and attending meetings is far more efficient than it was pre-pandemic, Thirunagari said.
“With everything moving virtual and my internship getting canceled, I had extra time to understand how to network better and start the push to meet more people," he said.